CNN recently covered Flywheel Boston rider Lisa Conti’s experience witnessing the Boston Marathon bombings last year. Although she didn’t run the marathon herself, she was deeply affected by the events, and as a result created the Make Room for Love Foundation which has raised over $10,000 for marathon victims in less than a year. Read her touching story on the progress MRFL has made, and how Flywheel Boston became an incredible source of support for Conti:
“The decision to start Make Room For Love last April of 2013 was one of the more impulsive decisions I have made, almost as impulsive as my actions seconds after the explosions went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon where I stood as a spectator waiting for friends to cross. As a nurse, I walk with the knowledge every day that I am never fully ‘off duty.’ No matter where I am, if someone is injured, I remember that it is my responsibility to help to the best of my ability. Though I will be forever grateful that I was unharmed by what occurred roughly 50 feet away from me on April 15th, 2013, I carry the heavy burden of regret that I failed to act as a nurse that day. Instead of running towards those that needed help, I ran away to safety, overcome by adrenaline and fear of the unknown. After much reflection, I realized that dwelling on the ‘could have, should have, and would have’ of that day would never actually create any change in the days that matter most: the present.
On April 16th, only one day after the Marathon and still shaken and exhausted from the incessant news coverage, I turned away from all outside negative energy and sat down to write, as I usually do when I have a lot to process. I started with the idea that I wanted to write something that would take the negative emotion associated with that awful day and replace it with the positivity that came as a result. The victims were honored with the respect that they deserved, the first responders were deemed heroes, the survivors were healing, and runners seemed to be pledging to run again in the following year before they could even unlace their shoes. Boston had truly come together when it was expected to fall apart. Together, we replaced the hate that was expected with love. “Make Room For Love” was born with that thought.
Inspired by the One Fund and the outpour of support being shown both emotionally and financially, I wanted to help, but knew that as a grad student, I didn’t have the funds of my own to contribute on a larger scale. I was fortunate enough to know a very generous lawyer who helped me get the organization incorporated and after the paperwork was completed, the rest was history. Through four fundraising events including a charity ride held at Flywheel, we have raised close to $10,000 in this first year. Though it isn’t enough to help every single survivor, I still feel that something is always better than nothing. My favorite part of the organization is that it is so small and intimate that it allows me to personally meet the marathon survivors that contact me and hand-deliver checks to them. These people have gone from being complete strangers to now being friends that I meet for coffee, send Christmas cards to and chat on the phone with on days that feel hard when encouragement is needed. It’s a form of healing that I feel honored to have the chance to do. I wouldn’t trade that aspect of it even if you told me that by doing so I could have a multi-million dollar organization overnight. The money raised clearly matters, but the connection is the meaning behind the organization; the connection is what makes it irreplaceable.
As for my tie to Flywheel, the physical presence of the studio being in the Back Bay has been so instrumental in helping me process the events of Marathon Monday. I’ve heard a lot of people who were affected by that day speak of how running in the Back Bay has helped them heal and how exercise has been their outlet. Flywheel has been exactly that for me. I’m not a runner, as I’ve made clear in my blog before, but I needed something that would let me use my body and show my appreciation that I was still able to do so. When I started going to Flywheel I just kept thinking of how happy I was to have somewhere in the Back Bay that actually made me excited to be there again. The marathon ruined that for me, for a long time. It made me angry to see people photographing the spot where the bombs went off, it made me angry to see the Red Sox World Series Parade at the finish line. I just didn’t get it because I couldn’t feel that same air of celebration. I felt weak when I went back to the scene of where everything happened, and then Flywheel helped me feel strong again. I’ve seen countless survivors with missing legs and shrapnel wounds on their limbs that cause them constant pain and daily suffering. Every time I get on that bike I think about how lucky I am to not be suffering and how those people would kill for the ability to walk again, let alone hit 100 RPM on a bike. Every single person at Flywheel Boston from the instructors to the riders pedal with intention and with strength that can only be found in Boston. I ride for those who can’t do so themselves and in return, Flywheel has become my healing.
I was thrilled to host a charity ride for Make Room For Love at Flywheel Boston last month. Everything about the ride was amazing from the energy to the turnout. Christina Lodde, my favorite Boston instructor, took time out of her jam-packed schedule to teach the class and I was so grateful for this because I knew that her irreplaceable energy would set the exact tone for the ride that I imagined. I had contacted one of the marathon survivors that I helped through my organization, Rebekah, and told her about the event. Unfortunately she lives in Texas, but I wanted her to feel included somehow. She told me she loved the song “Roar” by Katy Perry and that it symbolized her recovery. I told this story to Christina and she didn’t even hesitate to put it on her playlist. About 10 minutes into the ride, I stood in the back of the class as this song played and tears instantly started to fill my eyes. I took a quick video to send to Rebekah, which she said made her feel “honored.” It’s the little things like this that Flywheel does that show a side of compassion and dedication that you don’t get everywhere. It’s about attention to detail and connecting with riders on and off the bike, it’s just a special place that people have to experience to truly understand. Flywheel goes beyond the workout; it’s a lifestyle of really dedicated, genuine, and inspiring people. The fundraising ride proved that to everyone who attended as well. So many of them can’t wait to go back and I can’t wait to see the bright future for Flywheel, Make Room For Love, and the entire city of Boston, a city that truly exemplifies what it means to “Never Coast.”